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Consulting has consistently ranked as the second most popular job (after investment banking) pursued by Penn students, according to career plan survey reports from Career Services.

Photo: Courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg/Creative Commons

Consulting is usually associated with opulence and constant traveling, yet thousands of Penn students seek consulting jobs every year for more than superficial motivations.

“People like the breadth of the industry and the breadth of the business problems you work on. Every few months, you have a new project and a new client. You are learning about new industries and developing new skills,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said. “This is very attractive to graduates who are just starting out and don’t have much experience with any particular industry.”

College junior Joy Zhang will intern with Deloitte Consulting this summer. Part of her duty during the internship will be to research on compensation structure for company employees, a topic related to her studies in psychology and economics. Before the internship, Zhang’s first experience with consulting was a public policy case competition, held by the Philadelphia mayoral office to help solve the problem of millennial retention.

“Consulting is a great learning opportunity to explore different areas. You can work on different projects involving different industries. I want to start broad as a generalist and then get more narrow through time,” she said. “Consulting also gives me a sense of responsibility to solve real problems for my clients, and you can interact with other bright people from different backgrounds.”

Wharton and College sophomore Chris Wu said consulting is a good “entry point” for fresh graduates to figure out their career passions, but this might not necessarily be a positive trend. “The industry is very general, so you can of course learn a lot of things, but I think that consulting has turned into a vortex that sucks people in. It feels like if you don’t know what you want to do, you just go do consulting,” he said. “I think it’s better to be purposeful and have a reason for why you are doing your job.”

According to career plan survey reports from Career Services, consulting has consistently ranked as the second-most-popular job — after investment banking — pursued by Penn students.

And the industry appeals to more than just Wharton students. For majors ranging from chemical engineering to philosophy, politics and economics, consulting firms are constantly the top hirers.

“Consulting actually draws on people from different backgrounds. The diversity is what the clients are paying for. They want to have people with different ideas to help with their problems,” said College and Wharton senior Linda Li, who was the former vice president of the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club. Li will take a full-time job offer for a consulting firm in New York after she graduates.

Students are also attracted to the broad range of consulting firms that exist. “We normally think of consulting as management consulting and firms like McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group,” Rose said. “But there [is] pharmaceutical consulting, technology consulting and so on. There are different firms doing different work that have particular niches. That’s why you see consulting attracting students from all majors.”

Statistics have shown that, in the past few years, the share of consulting in Penn students’ post-graduation plans has been shrinking slightly year by year, partly due to the rise of technology related careers and start-ups. Nevertheless, Rose said consulting will remain popular for the foreseeable future.

“I have been here for 30 years, and consulting has been popular since I got here,” she said. “There will always be consulting and it will always be a popular career choice.”

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